Come Back Soon

come back soon

By Barbara Kazdan –

They come. They go. They supercharge my life, then go back to theirs. We laugh, we talk – about things big and small. I sleep better knowing they’re under my roof. Mornings bring the warm, familiar company I miss. On the last day, sadness rumbles inside me, diluting the pure pleasure of their presence. Then: “Bye, Mom. Love you.”

I’m lucky. My children keep up a steady stream of visits. I visit them, too, dropping into their lives, savoring the flavors of their lifestyles: the people, the places, the rhythms. Between our visits, phone calls and cyber-messages connect us. Between those visits, life happens.

fall scents for your home

Photo: Barbara and grandson at playground

Parting is easier when “I” leave them. I don’t relish replays of their nest-leaving moments. No one warned me it happens over and over. Once they all came home for a wedding, then left again – in birth order. Will I ever get used to it? Would I want to? If I didn’t grieve at parting would I rejoice at reuniting? They’ve made lives for themselves. Good!

If they lived nearby, would petty differences fester? My parents squabbled with siblings at family gatherings. I’d hear them afterward: “Ellen’s such a control freak. How does Frank put up with her?” “They coddle those kids. How about saying ‘no’ once in a while?” Still, when trouble came, they were there for each other in a heartbeat.  

Living far apart makes time together sweet. It’s easy to swallow minor annoyances on a quick visit. But I’d gladly trade occasional flare-ups for the comfort of having family nearby. I’d love to hear, “I baked lasagna. I’ll bring some over.” Or, “Jeff said he’d fix that faucet.” At times my grown-up children might welcome a little mothering – when they’re stressed out or a migraine strikes. Having grandparents on call or leaving the kids at her place? An EZ pass to alone time, with no meter running. And their children would discover an age-old pact: what happens at Grandma’s stays at Grandma’s.

I travel to grandkids’ birthday parties, recitals and graduations. I’d rather be around when they’re just hanging out. I’d like to help my daughters run errands or pick up the kids. Instead they treat me like a guest. “Just go to the table, Mom.” What mother lets her daughter wait on her? One who isn’t around enough to know her way around the kitchen.

come home soon
Barbara Kazdan holding grandson

“I’ll never follow you around the country unless there’s interesting work for me there,” I’d say. My younger daughter called me on that: “That puts the whole burden of ever living near each other on us.” I heard her. My husband had retired. So when a great job in D.C. opened up for me, we moved from Houston to be near her. A big bonus: we greeted our grandson minutes after his birth.

come back soon
Barbara Kazdan with daughter, and baby Gabe

It was great while it lasted. Recently she said, “I’m grateful you lived near me during Gabe’s first years.” That stirred mixed feelings: remembering how we loved having them nearby, and how our lives contracted when they moved to Arizona.

“The next best thing to seeing the kids arrive is seeing their headlights as they leave,” some friends wryly observed. We never felt that way. Did their visits turn our quiet lives upside down? Yes. Did we love it? Yes.

We’d cram as much as we could into time with the grandkids: outings to playgrounds, the zoo, kid-friendly museums and more, plus Big Wheel rides and bedtime stories. Their toy of choice? My antique scale with brass weights. “Don’t put that rock on it, honey, just the gold circles.” “Remember, Smokey’s a dog, not a pony.”

come back soon
Barbara Kazdan holding baby Gabe

A stroll with a 4 year old became a nightmare when she took off as fast as her little feet could fly. So yes, they’d keep us on our toes. But especially now that I’m alone, I’m never ready to see them go.

Get a life, I tell myself. Let them get on with theirs. Still, I wish the pendulum would swing back: There’s a reason we call our loved ones nearest and dearest. Drop in visits beat those by reservation. When it comes to family, getting and giving hugs should not require advance planning.

Tapping 30 years of non-profit leadership, Barbara founded Achieving Change Together to advance social justice. In her “encore career,” this Silver Spring, Maryland grandmother writes personal essays and memoir. Her work appears in Contagious Optimism, 10 Habits of Truly Optimistic People, and


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